I remember watching Julie Goodwin face the judges in the final round of MasterChef, revealing what kind of cookbook she would write if she became Australian’s first MasterChef winner. It was when she talked of a family cookbook that celebrated her love of food and her desire to connect with and nourish her loved ones, that I knew her win was in the bag.
There was much controversy over Goodwin’s MasterChef win. Many lamented the fact that a home-cook (albeit a talented one) should never have taken the title, and that perhaps the likes of Justine Schofield and Chris Badenoch, chefs in the ‘truer’ sense of the word, should have had a shot at the title.
I guess Goodwin’s win, in a way, redefines the boundaries of what comprises a Chef, and it’s without a doubt that the boundaries of such a label were superceded by Goodwin’s skill, talent and passion for cooking – a skill that is showcased beautifully in her new book.
Our Family Table, released today by Ebury Press, does not disappoint. Experienced, professional chefs (or wannabes) may not be rolling around in ghee upon opening this new hardcover tome, but everyone else will.
Following the stylings of the MasterChef Series One cookbook in December last year, Our Family Table is not about how to a julienne a duck or create truffle ganache. It’s not about feeling overwhelmed or dwarfed by knife-wielding skills or recipes that call for 18 hours preparation or instruments used in microsurgery. It’s about creating great, delicious and beautiful food, at home, for your family, with competence, ease and enjoyment.
It’s about Spaggy bol. It’s about ‘not very authentic’ fried rice. Very quick omelettes. Orange jam. Buttermilk pancakes. Thai pork salad. Recipes you will eat and recipes you will cook and recipes you can make.
The book is gorgeously styled. A semi-cloth-bound hardcover, simple and beautiful styling and a blue grosgrain ribbon for marking pages. The recipes are broken into heart-warming chapters like Good Morning, Sweet Treats, Feeding the Multitudes and Rainy Day Cooking that will send you back to childhood. The Damper on a Stick, for example, sent me hurtling back to a Girl Guides camping trip, winding fat wads of damper dough around green sticks, baking them over open flame and filling the resultant hole with an oozing of golden syrup.
The book also contains a wonderful section on Christmas feasting and the coup de grâce is the beautiful end-section with stylised pages to record your own recipes, thoughts and food memories – to share with your family and beyond.
Peppered with gorgeous family photos that do not border on twee, the author also includes reminiscences on her childhood and grandparents – memories that have clearly influenced her love of cooking. You can hear Julie Goodwin’s real voice in this book – and Our Family Table is a prime example of a book that has been beautifully created yet not suffered an untimely butchering from an overenthusiastic editor.
Unpretentious, beautiful and as warm as the author herself, this book is a breath of fresh air and I won’t be parting with my copy any time soon. It has also inspired me to start keeping my own family cookbook. While I might not be a MasterChef, isn’t cooking all about love, togetherness and enjoyment? If you vote yes, then Our Family Table is the book for you.
And yes, Julie fans… don’t panic – Lemon Diva Cupcakes are included.